Sunday, October 10, 2010

Consumerism:Impact On Climate Change

This article was posted on www.readersquotient.com on August 28th 2010. It was written exclusively for Readers Quotient and the rights are reserved by the magazine and the author - Pranav Patel

“Rohan! Switch off the air conditioner and fan”, shouted Rohan’s mother. Rohan, a 14 year old, had just woken up and was busy brushing his teeth when his mother asked him to switch off the air conditioner and the fan in his bedroom. As he started walking towards his bedroom he heard his mom shout again. “Rohan, who do you think will turn off the tap in the washbasin? Stop wasting electricity and water, will you!” This is the way a day usually starts for Rohan. This in fact is the way a day usually starts for millions of children who have lived a life of luxury and comfort. Keeping fans, air conditioners, coolers and water taps turned on does not pinch their pockets or prick their conscience. They don’t realize the importance of money due to their naïveté. But, they certainly do need to know the impact their actions have on the ecology and environment. Their present actions will determine their future standard of living and quality of life on this planet, not just for them but all of humanity.

So how exactly does this sort of consumption pattern affect the ecological balance and climate? To begin with, consumption of energy (electricity) may not have any direct visible impact on nature and its surroundings. But, it surely has a huge impact on the environment due to the way it is generated. Most of the electricity produced today comes from thermal (coal) power plants. The greater the amount of coal we burn to produce electricity, the greater will be the carbon emission in the atmosphere. This carbon emission will then remain in the atmosphere in case they are not inhaled by natural vegetation (Trees inhale CO2 and exhale Oxygen). Most of the thick rainforests of Brazil, South East Asia and Africa are known carbon reservoirs. However, deforestation, industrialization and globalization have greatly reduced their efficiency to store carbon emission, which now is left above the earth’s atmosphere. Due to this, the oxygen content in atmosphere is greatly reduced. This is a result of the symbiotic relationship between humans and the plant kingdom. Plants inhale CO2 and exhale oxygen. Humans on the other hand, inhale Oxygen and exhale CO2. If the plant population reduces, the amount of available oxygen will reduce and CO2 content will increase. The proportion of CO2 and Oxygen will be impacted as a result of this deforestation. The ability to reflect sunlight is affected (diminished in this case) and as a result the overall temperature of the earth increases. This phenomenon is better known as global warming. The impact of rise in temperature will lead to great water scarcity (fresh water sources are around 3% of total available water sources of the world), floods (mainly due to melting of glaciers), and reduction in foodgrain production. The ever increasing temperature also will seriously threaten the flora and fauna present on earth. The polar bear population has reduced dramatically due to the melting of glaciers. The world faces the prospect of losing the polar bears forever.

The phenomenon of global warming dates back to the early days of the industrial revolution, when man started releasing toxic gases like Carbon dioxide and methane into the earth’s atmosphere. What they did not know at that time was that the atmosphere could absorb only a limited amount of Carbon Dioxide. The atmosphere basically is similar to a parking lot where only a fixed number of cars can be parked. One can play around with the arrangement of cars but the overall parking strength would more or less remain the same. If the capacity of the parking lot is 100 cars, then we have already parked around 90 cars over the last 150 years. There is space left for only 10 more cars. (The analogy here is between cars and CO2 content) The countries of the world are now fighting over how many cars they can park (rather the amount of CO2 they can emit). International negotiations are pretty much stuck at who owns more responsibility in cutting emissions. It is more of a developed nation’s v/s developing nation’s debate. This is the status quo on climate change and global warming talks. The Cop-15 summit held at Copenhagen last year failed due to this tussle between the developed and developing countries.

A question which might come to mind is why not move away from Carbon based fossil fuels to the conventional energy sources and nuclear, hydro based power. This transition is easier said than done. Thermal power is the cheapest source of power available today. Nuclear power is almost 8 times costlier than thermal power and solar power cost goes even higher than that. Solar power has other problems like dependence on available sunlight. Hydro power certainly seems a good option but it has many other ethical and environmental problems like deforestation and displacement.The India’s Narmada Bachao Andolan is a glaring example of the issues governments and companies face with big hydro-power projects. Developing countries like India might start making a transition to nuclear power but this would be a very expensive solution which may have political repercussions for the ruling party. At the end of the day the government would always be concerned about higher GDP and growth rates. No President or PM would risk going to the polls with lower growth rates. So as of now everyone is happy with thermal power plants, notwithstanding all the talk of energy conservation and climate change. Also the potential risks attached with Nuclear power are very high. The Chernobyl disaster still rankles in the minds of people when they think of the repercussions of a nuclear disaster.

Coming back to Rohan and millions of other kids like him who might wonder how cutting electricity consumption would reduce global warming, well it certainly would not reduce global warming but would at least delay the inevitable. This would certainly give to the world’s scientists, engineers, leaders and policy makers more time to arrive at a feasible solution to deal with this potent threat.

Organisations and Events on climate change –

The Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) is a network uniting Indian youth and youth oriented organizations who are concerned about climate change & environment issues. IYCN is inviting applications for CoP 16, the climate change summit to be held in Cancun, Mexico.

For more details visit – www.iycn.in

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bhopal Verdict : A Different Perspective

This article was posted By Reader's Quotient On Wednesday, June 30th 2010 In Society
http://readersquotient.com/2010/06/30/bhopal-verdict-a-different-perspective/


Finally managed to get published !!! Yipeeeeeee

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Today I saw

I just happened to walk on the road opposite my school.As I walked across, I saw a young girl carrying her bag, walk towards the school gate.Along with her I saw many children waving goodbye to their parents as they entered the school.Suddenly amongst the crowd of children I saw a familiar face.A face I had grown up seeing all my life.I saw a much younger Pranav walk towards the gate.This Pranav was much more energetic and full of life.I could see him playing around with a group of kids.It was probably during the spare time we always had before the early morning prayers. Then, I also saw my buddies from school - Ritesh,Priyanka,Sourabha,Ramprasad,Archana,Shweta,Resham,Hardik. These were the faces I grew up with during my school days.It felt nice to revisit those innocent times of life when life revolved around school,friends,homework,play,family dinners and sleep.Those were carefree times when I was unaware of what a career meant and what salaries and pay-packets were.Today life seems to have taken a 360 degree turn because here I am sitting all alone in my room writing this post.As I write about my school days, my mind goes back to those lovely times we all had in school.Truly,those were the best days of my life.

Monday, March 01, 2010

My visit to India Gate

Recently I went on a trip to Delhi.India Gate was topmost in my list of places to visit,which included some historical monuments like Red Fort,Rashtrapati Bhavan,Qutub Minar and Parliament.
India Gate was built by the British,the erstwhile colonial rulers of India, as a war memorial to the Indian soldiers who had fought alongside the British troops in World War I and the Afghan wars.After India gained independence from the British, India Gate became the site of the Indian Army’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Amar Jawan Jyoti(Flame of the Immortal Soldier),which burns in a shrine under the arch of India Gate.The shrine is made of black marble and is a cenotaph,with a rifle placed on it.On the rifle sits a soldiers helmet.On all four sides of the cenotaph are inscribed the words Amar Jawan(Immortal Soldier).The names of gallantry award winners are mentioned on the bricks of India Gate.
I had seen the India Gate on TV but that day I stood right in front of it. I could feel a sense of pride when I saw the names of the Indian soldiers on its walls.These were the soldiers who had fought many a war against oppressive regimes and invaders. They had sacrificed their lives for the idea of freedom and liberty during the maddening days of World War I, when humanity was kicked around at the cost of millions of lives.I could only bow my head in respect to the great heroes of India who had sacrificed their lives to ensure a better tomorrow for future generations.Standing alongside me were hundreds of other tourists, who too were thrilled to see this historical monument. Young children were giggling and dancing. Some of them were local school children, who had probably come over on a day trip. Most of the tourists, who were from the post World War II generation, had only heard of the mayhem and destruction caused during the two great wars. They all had come to see this magnificent structure, which today stands as a symbol of a nation’s gratitude to its soldiers who fought in World War I.
In front of the India Gate are three flags, each signifying the three armed forces of Independent India. I also saw soldiers marching around the memorial. Some of the soldiers were generous enough to pose for pictures with the ecstatic children. They were aware of the excitement their guns had created amongst the little ones.
It was soon time for me to leave. Before leaving I had a last look at the names on the Gate. A silent thank you was followed by a salute. As I left, I promised myself that I would come back soon. I await the day when I shall go back to visit this symbol of sacrifice and bravery.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What If

"What If" actually is a beautiful song written by Coldplay- one of my favourite bands.It starts off with the words - "What is there was no Life.Nothing wrong.Nothing right.What if there was no time.And no reason or rhyme."
I was just hearing the song all over again and realised that the song had a lot of depth in it.The lyrics somehow make a lot of sense.They probably are written from personal experience.
I am sure we all at some point in our lives come at a phase where the most logical and sensible of things just don't make any sense to us.We realise that the feelings we are going through at that time are probably momentary and those too shall pass but somehow deep inside,we just wish or probably hope to hold on.In this life we meet so many people.We go through so many emotions and feelings of joy as well as sorrow.Our family,friends,colleagues,relatives as well as strangers are invariably a part of some of the happiest as well as saddest moments of our lives. At some point in our lives when we look back at those moments we end up asking ourselves a question - "What If". This question generally pops up in our mind at times when we are down and out. The last few months have been those times for me where I have ended up asking myself this question umpteen number of times. This has mainly been due to the loss of someone for whom I always had a lot of warmth and respect.Emotionally I had lost touch with him almost 3 years back due to a disease which couldn't be cured and was slowly taking away every moment of his life.I lost touch with him physically just a few months back. Whenever this question pops up in my mind it ends up making me angry with myself for having been so insensitive at times and for not having done more than I should have to spend more time with that person.What If I had met him atleast once in 4 months whenever I used to go home in Bombay.What If I had called him up regularly when his mind and body was holding on against the onslaught of the disease.I would atleast have had many more memories of him with me.I would have managed to bring a smile or two on his face.The point I am trying to make is how we all end up getting tied up with our daily routine and become machines. Then one fine day due to a particular incident we just realise we have become machines without any emotions and feelings.I guess, most of us have forgotten to live. We are just breathing air,eating food,drinking water and working-to earn money. In between all of this do we ever think of calling up an old friend,talking to our uncles and aunts,meeting up with the neighbour who has been living alone since years,taking care of a relative who has been sick for quite some time ? These are just few things which we can do in a day. The list is just endless. I am sure we all would want to avoid coming across this one question -What If ? The only way to avoid this is to follow your heart. If you ever feel like hugging your parents without any reason just go ahead and do it.Don't think twice. You wish to talk to an old friend with whom you haven't spoken to in ages then just go ahead and call up or drop an email. Trust me he/she won't sue you for doing that! You have been sitting at home just wasting your time doing nothing and wish someone was around so that you could talk.Well, then just get up and go to meet your cousin/friend/relative or just anyone who wouldn't mind welcoming you in his/her home for a day. Life is too short for us to get entangled in routine work and ego problems. So just take time out and follow your heart. You will rarely come across those two painful words - What If.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The human mind

The brain - the CPU of the human body.It bloody well weighs not more than 1.6 - 1.8 kgs but can store tonnes and tonnes(or nanobytes,terabytes or any other form of byte) of information. I would call it god's most precious gift to mankind.My apologies to all feminists for using the word mankind but being the traditionalist that I am,I will prefer to stick to this word.
At times I do wonder what all this magnificent little devil can do if it is used in the proper way.We all have seen what it forces evil to do if they start using their brains in the wrong way.A look at recent history would give us glaring examples like Hitler,Stalin,Polpot,Osama and many others.The point here is what exactly goes on in a human mind and what is it that gives it the fuel and fodder to do things that it makes us do.I,for example, do keep using my brain continuously but its output usually isn't of much relevance to the world or to my immediate near and dear ones!!! Some people have also given me an alias called "Lost World".My mind generally makes me travel places where I have never been.At one moment I am in places like Kashmir,North East India,Goa and at the next moment I would be thinking about my family,career,friends and the good old times,though not necessarily in that order.In times when the heart comes out stronger over the brain,I generally go into a completely different zone and think about some special people who might actually be standing next to me at times!
The point here is not what all I think but what is it that makes the brain think or do all the things it makes us do.I am sure different people have much better control over their lives and also over their thoughts.But, this surely doesn't mean that they wouldn't be thinking about some vague things.At times I do feel like getting into the minds of some of my friends to get to know what exactly they think about me or others.Okay,okay,I know it would amount to spying but what the heck.It might make my life less complicated and easier as I would know who are my well wishers and who are just part time companions enjoying my company in their journey of life.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Moving on

The last 2.5 years have been one of the best and most enriching years of my life.
I spent those in the IT city of India - Bangalore. Destiny and luck got me in touch with some of the best possible roommates I could have got. Luck got me in touch with someone who in turn introduced me to some really great friends. Time just flew by in the company of these wonderful friends. I possibly couldn't have asked for more from anyone. Today I have got a transfer to Pune which is very much near Bombay,my hometown. The decision to take this transfer was a very conscious one taken after some deep thought.I had to move on in life at some point of time. I am not sure when I will meet those wonderful friends I still have in Bangalore. The only thing I am sure about is that they will always be a very important part of my life whom I will never forget.
I do have this mild feeling of sadness in my heart. I know I will overcome it in some time.However, I pray to God that he doesn't let me overcome the feeling of warmth that we all have for each other.